Garrett is as Garrett does

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'Garrett is as Garrett does'

The Truly Crappy Day (was ‘Garrett is as Garrett Does’)

October 17th, 1999
by garrett

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WARNING: Contains mature language and graphic descriptions of injuries

Hurricane Irene kinda snuck up on me. I didn’t hear about it until Friday morning. So after work on Friday, I made sure I had the supplies from Hurricane Floyd handy and set about not worrying. Saturday morning came and went.

Knowing full well that Time-Warner Cable can’t maintain service during normal weather, a hurricane is a guarantee for outages. After the first 15 minutes of strong winds, the cable went out, came back, went out, came back, and finally gave up the ghost to static. So I immersed myself in a PlayStation game. Since I was destined to have a Crappy Day, the power went out shortly thereafter and stayed out (unlike during Floyd, when the power went out twice for a total of 15 minutes).

Not being one to sit still without some form of mindless entertainment in front of me, I started to do the dishes. One good thing about having a broken dishwasher is that it makes no difference when the power goes out. I was finishing the first ‘rack’ when I noticed the patio roof wasn’t leaking nearly as bad as is normally does. This means that the water is pooling on the flat plastic and thin sheet metal roof and may take it down. This would not be good.

I would like to flashback three weeks to the previous hurricane, Floyd. Essentially Floyd did two things; The first, he pushed over the trees/shrubs that died in the last two years of drought. The other thing he did was to push over a ‘weed’ tree into the grove of bamboo that is next to the patio with the leaking roof. The bamboo is what’s keeping the tree from continuing its arc downward into the kitchen roof. The landlord had called the ‘tree guy’ several times after Floyd, but the tree was still leaning on the bamboo over the kitchen roof when Irene came to town.

But back to the present, so to speak. This is one of the points in space and time that hindsight dictates as a ‘critical moment of stupidity.’ Somehow I reasoned that I needed to get up on a ladder and scoop out all the dead bamboo/weed tree leaves from the gutter to prevent the patio roof from collapsing. So I hauled out the industrial strength ladder and started scooping out the leaves. Having taken the Zen approach to getting wet, I was:

  • barefoot
  • in hurricane Irene
  • on a unstable ladder
  • in swim trunks
  • scooping fistfuls of rotting leaves from between pieces of sharp-edged sheet metal

I’ll let that sink in for a bit.

Having unblocked the major gutter (technically there are six on the patio roof alone), I saw that the other gutters were being blocked too. To unblock a gutter *on* the patio roof requires a long, strong pole that one can pull towards oneself to clear the channels. Not having the proper tools, I did what any American Pioneer would do. I made the tool from local materials, namely bamboo. (What?! I’m not a pioneer, but an out-of-shape Web Programmer?! Pshaw! Don’t bother me with trivial details!)

Retrieving my machete, I selected, cut, trimmed, and notched a tool to my liking. The homemade tool wasn’t working efficiently as is, but being an engineer at heart, I figured that if I pushed instead of pulled the tool, I could easily clear the rest of the blockages with no problems. So I climbed up on the roof to change the applied force vector. Here’s a brief recap of my state. I was:

  • barefoot
  • in hurricane Irene
  • on my roof
  • in swim trunks
  • wielding a 4m pole

I managed to clean most of the gutters out, but I kept running into the tree the Floyd pushed over and the bamboo it was resting on. Another brilliant idea emerged from the engineer part of my head – “Why not reduce the chance for the tree to finally take out the kitchen roof by reducing the wind load on it?” I was up there, I had a machete, what could go wrong?

I started clearing the leafy branches of the tree, and indeed the tree was swaying less and less as I cut more and more branches. Instant gratification from a plan actually working is highly intoxicating to an engineer. So I turned my machete-wielding attention to the bamboo that wasn’t holding up the tree, thinking that if I get rid of the bamboo over the roof, so much the better. This was the other critical moment of stupidity.

Bamboo bites back. Remember this. Trees just sort of sit there as you hack them to pieces, but bamboo fights you tooth and nail, all the way. You have to hold it down while you cut it, else it just bends and snaps back in your face. Being right handed, I was holding the bamboo with the left and wielding the machete with the right. I know, I know this is where I tell you I missed and *WHACK* – off goes a finger.

But it ain’t. My aim was 100% for the 30 minutes I was doing this. What went wrong was that the machete didn’t cut 100% through the bamboo, just 99.9995%. It’s hard to describe in words how this was unfolding but I’ll try. I had the ‘free’ end of the bamboo stalk in my left hand and my machete in my right hand. The free end still had a few small ‘strands’ connecting it to the rest of the plant, and wasn’t going anywhere. So I pinned the right end of the bamboo with my right hand (still holding the machete) and pulled hard with my left. Somehow my right pinkie managed to get wrapped around the .0005% of the bamboo that did not get cut. And so when I pulled, the remaining bamboo attachment gave way and slid along my right pinkie, edge on.

If you have ever really cut yourself you know what the sensation of having something slice through your flesh is like. It is, in a single word, unique. I expected the machete to have cut me, and having thrown the bamboo away to grasp my finger, I stood there looking for the blood on the machete – still in my right hand. It eventually dawned on me to drop the machete. The really strange thing was that I wasn’t pumped on adrenaline and it didn’t hurt. At all.

Given the amount of blood that was flowing and the little bits of fat and skin that were exposed and hanging, I knew this needed more serious medical attention than some Neosporin and Band-Aids. And so began the Truly Crappy Day.

The first step was to get off the roof. But there was a small problem, climbing down was never easy with two working hands, much less with one blood soaked hand clutching the other. So I was:

  • sitting barefoot
  • in hurricane Irene
  • on my roof
  • in swim trunks
  • checking every few minutes to see if the bleeding slowed long enough to climb down

I figured about ten minutes passed before I got tired of waiting and said to myself, “Fuck the hand, I’m getting off the damn roof.” Compared to the balancing act in high winds on an unstable ladder, actually getting in the house was kind of easy.

Step two, get to the medical attention. Again easier said than done. I was able to wash most of my blood off of me, put on some shorts (with clean underwear – just for all the Moms out there), a loose, open-front shirt as it was the easiest to get into, and my sandals. I fed the dog, not knowing how long this could take, leaving the bloody sink and footprints behind me as I locked the house.

Ludwig (my ’89 Ford Escort station wagon) hates heavy rain, so getting him to start in a hurricane wasn’t easy. On my way to the closest Urgent Care Center (I did not want to sit in an ER room for hours) in Ormond Beach, I was dodging tree limbs falling in front of me, avoiding the notorious Florida drivers (who get even *worse* when the stoplights are out), driving with one hand, and keeping Ludwig from stalling every step of the way.

I pulled into the empty UCC parking lot and started wondering if it was closed. It wasn’t, but as it turned out I wouldn’t actually be treated there.

Step three, get medical attention. Introducing myself to the registration clerk went like this:

“Hi.”
“Hi.”
“My name is Garrett Taylor and I’m stupid. Despite that, can I get someone to look at this?”
“Sure. You know, that’s what the other guy said.”
“Oh, stupid? I’m not surprised. We’re every where.” To which the nurse and the receptionist had a good laugh while I tried to sign the paper work with my left hand.
“Sorry if this is pretty bad, but this is my off hand.”
“Oh, I was beginning to wonder if you’d finished second grade.”
“Oh yes, I is college ed-du-ma-cat-ted.”

I had been to the UCC in Port Orange, so to my surprise they were able to call up my medical history from there and signing my name was the limit of writing I had to do.

After being settled in and having a few shots of lidocaine, the doctor started poking around my finger. After a few minutes of “Hmmm, still bleeding” comments, he had me flex my finger which I couldn’t do. Then he told me that I had cut the nerve and there maybe some tendon damage. He was going to put some ‘loose’ stitches in and send me to the hand specialist at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Supposedly he was there and had another patient. I could have had them EVAC me, as it was offered two or three times, but as non-emergency transport goes, I would be last on the list. Twenty minutes later, I was out in Irene doing just what I did before, this time heading for HMC when the lidocaine started wearing off. It started as a gentle throb.

Finding a parking space in HMC emergency trauma was surprisingly easy through the pain, but I made the mistake of thinking things were looking up. As I made my way into the non-ambulance entrance to the ER, I was nearly smacked silly by the ER door. Apparently the closing mechanism had been torn free of the metal door and it was free to open and close in the hurricane winds. Wet, cold, dirty, but with blue paper work in hand, I was directed to the check-in station where the EMT interns (under the direction of a Resident) took all the same measurements as they did in the Ormond UCC and tagged me with a wrist strap.

Remember how I didn’t want to sit for hours in an ER? Well it’s a Crappy Day, so I must spend time in the ER waiting room. Their suture room was full at the time (they said) so they directed me to the ER waiting room, complete with bored 3 and 4 year-olds, old magazines, todays newspapers missing half the pages, and the power flickering. Thirty five minutes later I was called in by a Resident (they wear different uniforms than ‘real’ doctors) apologizing for leaving me ‘out there’ because the check-in station had not filed my paper work properly. He led me in the “FastTrack” ward.

After the first hour of waiting in the “FastTrack” ward I was x-ray’ed and told the hand specialist was ‘on his way now’. The painful throb was joined by a burning sensation.

After the second hour, a nurse noticed my sour expression and informed me that the hand specialist was in an emergency trauma operation and there was no telling when he would get out to look at me. The burning sensation apparently got bored and called in his buddy, stabbing-knives sensation to join him and the painful throb. Pain medications were out of the question until the hand specialist could do a diagnosis.

After two and a half hours, “the guy with chronic back pain” was wheeled into the bay next to me. He was joined for an hour by his girlfriend and their 2 year old child who refused to be quiet.

After the third hour, “Ms. violent psycho” refused to be x-ray’ed for something; screaming, cursing, and fighting everyone around her. This brought the slow ER to a halt for 45 min while they refused to sedate her until a psych. doctor and security was brought down.

After three and a half hours, only me and the other patient waiting for the hand specialist were still in the “FastTrack” ward, the other 6 bays had been cycled through. No food and water since 11 am (it was now 8:00pm), because they were paranoid about me having to go under general anesthesia, was not sitting well with me. Another nurse (they had changed shifts sometime when I wasn’t paying attention) noticed my scowl and tried to be sympathetic, “If there was anything I could do to get him here faster I would.” I decided to let him live.

Four hours after being let into the “FastTrack” ward, the hand specialist shows up out of breath. With two EMT interns in tow. And for the third time today I have to explain my injuries and say “Yes, the bamboo did it” to the incredulous looks. The other hand specialist patient had chosen the exactly wrong time to go to the bathroom, so despite him being here a good twenty minutes before me, I was the first to be wheeled into the suture room.

Remember this is a Crappy Day! So not only am I dressed like a bum, have blood caked into my feet and hands, my hair (which hangs to my belt) tangled with bits and pieces of dead leaf matter, bamboo, and my flesh and blood, but I get lay on my back in front of an audience with my big ol’ belly under the exam lights. As the doctor started shooting more lidocaine into my hand, he began discussing what he expected to see to the two interns as they took my vitals yet again.

After I politely informed him that I could still feel what he was doing to my hand, he pumped a second needle of lidocaine into my finger. At this point the audience started to grow. He applied the tourniquet and opened my finger up, cheerfully pointing out parts of my finger’s anatomy while three EMT interns were jostling for a better view. He had to reattach the nerve ends so a new nerve would grow properly. I tried to watch, but the fourth member of the audience, a doctor apparently stopping by after performing surgery, suggested that I not want to see it. I quit trying. He stitched together my tendon, as it had been ‘nicked’, causing it to get caught on a ligament.

By the time I noticed the fifth and sixth audience member, the doctor was starting to close. In all there were eight people in the suture room, not much bigger than a office cubicle. Ten minutes later I was dodging the cleaning crew as I waiting for my release papers to be printed up. The doctors closing advice was to rent a couple of movies, because I wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight. Not that would help any, as power was out for most of Ormond Beach, but I let it slide. Another five minutes and I was walking out the door that nearly smacked me silly.

But this is a Truly Crappy Day. In the pain, I forgot to turn off my lights when I parked, so I climbed into Ludwig and was met with the sound of silence. HMC security was busy and they couldn’t be found anywhere, so I had to call AAA. After explaining where I was, I waited for another 35 m while a wrecker was dispatched to give me a jump. After getting the medication and more “Yes, the bamboo did it” at the pharmacy, I went to get a something to eat. But the time I sat down in a Friendly’s (I didn’t feel like cooking) it was 11pm.

Arriving home just before midnight, the power was back on but the cable was out. I went to clean up the bloody footprints, but Maxwell (my dog) had beaten me to it. So I cleaned out the sink, changed into something less white-trash and continued playing Final Fantasy VIII until about 5pm on Sunday when I started to feel sleepy.

So ended my Crappy Day.

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Categories: Critical Moment of Stupidity · Mature · Medical · Personal1 Comment

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  • The original HTML file was titled ‘Garrett is as Garrett does…’ when I first posted this to my previous web site. The title was inspired by the famous ‘Gump’ line ‘Stupid is as stupid does’.